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Opinion | A senseless shutdown

Bradley Byrne

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Since coming to Washington, there have been several times when it felt like I was banging my head against the wall in frustration. One of those times was during the recent, senseless government shutdown.

Last Friday at midnight, the entire federal government shutdown after the Senate failed to pass a bill to continue government funding. The bizarre thing was that Democrats did not disagree with a single provision in the bill. Instead, Senate Democrats wanted a provision included in the bill to effectively grant amnesty to individuals in our country illegally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Now, President Trump has indicated he wants to see a long-term solution on how to handle those in the DACA program, and Congress has been in negotiations for weeks over a bill to address DACA and other border security issues. Those talks had been productive, but differences remained. The good news was that the deadline to handle DACA is not until mid-March.

Sadly, Senate Democrats refused to wait and demanded an illegal immigration provision be passed right away. When they did not get their way, they refused to vote for the funding bill and caused the entire federal government to shut down.

Government shutdowns have a lot of dire consequences, especially when it comes to our nation’s military. For example, all active duty military personnel continue to work during a shutdown, but they cannot be paid.

Ridiculously, during a shutdown, one of the few people in the federal government who continue to get paid are Members of Congress. I think that is wrong, so I immediately sent a letter to the Chief Administrative Officer of the House requesting that my pay be withheld until the shutdown ended. If our military was not getting paid, I did not think I should get paid either.

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President Trump made clear that he would not negotiate with Democrats on immigration issues until they ended their silly government shutdown. So, for a while, it seemed Democrats were going to hold the line and keep the federal government shuttered.

Things seemed to change over the weekend when news headlines started to show that Democrats were getting the brunt of the blame for the shutdown. Even liberal-leaning national newspapers like the New York Times ran headlines showing that Democrats were the ones who shut down the government.

So, on Monday, Senate Democrats agreed to end their senseless shutdown and vote to reopen the government. To be clear, they have absolutely nothing to show for their shutdown. Not a single promise was made in the House regarding a path forward on immigration issues. The shutdown was a total failure and nothing more than an irresponsible political stunt.

There was one good piece of news to come out of the whole ordeal. The final funding bill included six years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is known as All Kids in Alabama. The program helps provide health insurance to over 150,000 children right here in Alabama, and the funding will help eliminate uncertainty for the families who use the program. I am a huge supporter of CHIP, so I was proud to preside over the House when we voted to reopen the government and provide long-term funding for CHIP.

At the end of the day, the government shutdown was just another example of how Washington is broken in so many ways. In the coming weeks, I will continue pushing for a long-term government funding bill that responsibly funds our military, as well as for commonsense immigration policies that punish those who break the law and help keep our borders secure.

Bradley Byrne is the president and CEO of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce and a former Republican congressman who represented Alabama's 1st Congressional District.

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